New Delhi: The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets has landed at the Ambala airbase after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km. The contingent consists of three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, which will be part of the No. 17 Squadron of the Air Force, also known as the ”Golden Arrows’.
“Welcome home ‘Golden Arrows’. Blue skies always,” the Indian Air Force tweeted.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted:
The aircrafts were flown by Indian Air Force pilots. They took off from the Merignac airbase near Bordeaux in France. As planned the jets halted at Al Dhafra French air base near Abu Dabhi on Monday, and took off from there for Ambala on Wednesday morning.
Of the ten delivered to the Indian Air Force, five are in France for training.
The IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems, which are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest, IAF had stated.
“Welcome to the Indian Ocean… May you touch the sky with glory,” the Naval warship was heard telling a Rafale commander in an audio.
Security has been tightened near the airbase, located around 200 km from the border with Pakistan, and large gatherings have been banned in four villages nearby. There are also restrictions on people gathering on rooftops and any filming or photography during the landing. A local MLA has urged people to light candles this evening to welcome the jets.
They aircrafts were accompanied by two A330 Phoenix MRTT refueling planes from the French Air Force, one of which is carrying 70 ventilators, 100,000 test kits and a team of 10 health experts to aid in the fight against coronavirus.
India had bought 36 twin-engine fighter planes from Dassault Rafale for an estimated Rs 58,000 crore, through an inter-governmental agreement signed on September 23, 2016.
Delivery officially started in October last year when the first Rafale jet was handed over to the IAF during a visit to France by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The planes stayed in France for training of the pilots and mechanics. The entire contingent is to be delivered by 2022.
The planes are expected to boost India’s air power massively amid tensions with China and Pakistan.
According to the Indian Embassy in France, IAF batches will continue to be trained in France for the next nine months.
The delivery of all the 36 jets is scheduled by the end of 2021.